Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cromlechs of snow

It is 24 degrees below zero, counting the wind chill factor. This is not the clime for magnolia blossoms. I have a great desire to sit under a magnolia tree in July heat and listen for the petals arching open.

Today I wore my immense Blueberry (a jacket so fat with feathers that it can stand up on its own like a great blue headless dwarf) on an outing to Oneonta--a queenly procession to Royal Chrysler. The solenoid has not been my friend of late.

Despite the fact that taking cars for repairs is one of my least favorite things to do--and that I spent eight aggravating hours doing it last week--I had a marvelous drive. Delicate white falls tumbled from roofs on either hand. Snow whipped in streams over the road, and on the way back I saw fairy-like snow devils and huge rings of dancing veils, like light, effervescent spirits released from some Megalithic cromlech. Long ago I remember seeing the stone circle called "Dancing Maidens." Local folklore declared that young girls had been dancing on Sunday and so were turned to stone . . . I pulled over by a field of snow and stubble to watch three ethereal merry-go-rounds of snow flying up and dissolving and forming again. The scene was utterly joyous and lovely, with a touch of the dangerous, and seemed to speak of the everlasting vigor that pours through the broken, beautiful world.

***

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

--Yeats, again
***
The pictures are from the Fairbanks Ice Festival, and are among a large batch that landed in my email. If anybody knows the proper source to credit, please tell me! The rest are wonderful, but both of these are right for today because they are cold but "dance."
***
If you missed my piece on Drum Hadley, please pop down for a read . . .

13 comments:

  1. I like watching snow devils too. Oddly enough, I can't recall reading (or writing) anything about that until now. They're very hard to capture with a still photo.

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  2. Wow Marly what an eloquent post. I love the ice sculpture and the idea of snow devils is intriguing; so there must be snow angels too!

    I have picture of a local tree, very old, lots of holes in it with a sign saying “No fishing” etc it reminds me of Piglet's Great Uncle “Trespassers Will”. Would it be useful to you?

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  3. Dave,

    A year or so ago my agent sent out a story for a picture book, and the editors all responded that they wanted to see it as a novel. I just shrugged, because I had enough to do. It is a very chilly and fantastic story, and on the drive yesterday I decided that I would finally expand the thing, because the snow devils were just right to include... I've never seen so many, so beautiful.

    Robert,

    Thanks! Up here in the Yankee lands, snow has infinite variety and often seems alive to me.

    The picture sounds wonderful! I might; I'm definitely going to use the house picture you sent.

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  4. I love that you found beauty in the snow. Of course you are very good at finding beauty wherever you go, and inspiring others toward it as well.

    I am sorry for you that you are a hothouse southern flower, transplanted to the frigid, frozen, north. Don't despair too much for the land of the sun right now though, as yesterday when I left for school it was a breezy 12 degrees. Today it was all of 18 degrees when I was road bound. No snow though, which makes a midwestern transplant like me miss it. Maybe we should trade places for a bit.

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  5. Quite cold here now -4 degrees C and snow forecast for tomorrow. It always takes us by surprise and causes total disruption. My studio is so cold it takes an hour and a half to warm up enough to work.
    I will try and get some photos in the snow and send the tree in case..

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  6. b.q.,

    I shouldn't complain too much, because Cooperstown is ridiculously charming, even when it's so cold that the snow squeaks.

    Hope you are now in the very pinkest of health--the pink of pinks.

    Robert,

    Dorset by snow... I look forward to seeing those!

    But what I really want to find out is whether Robert Mileham is going to feel frolicsome with all that free sculptural stuff to play in. Will you ramble around outside and stop to make a sylph of snow--perhaps with a spaniel walking alongside? Perhaps I should make a snow book...

    We usually carve nooks for a hill village into the banks in front of the house, put white pottery houses in them, and at night we plop some tea lights inside.

    ***

    Wouldn't it be fun, just once, to know who really stops by? I was just looking at my "meter reading" for the day, and there are readers from Japan and Finland, Italy and Germany, France and Belgium and more. There's Alaska and Anniston and Australia... On and on, all these mysterious beings, barred from me by space and even time yet mysteriously here.

    I don't want a more detailed picture, as it seems unpleasantly nosey. But one has a sense of the surge of human minds, splashing up against the doorstep. Strange, this blogosphere.

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  7. Wish I could trade you a few July days for such a one as you describe. Wouldn't those ice sculptures be fun, though challenging, to draw? I've drawn outdoors in Sweden in winter and it is... challenging.

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  8. Laura, I accept the day-swapping!

    & thank you, Susanna--I've been thinking about you, as have lots of others.

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  9. Nature is the greatest Muse. And snow, being both wild and pure, holds great poetic power. Flakes whirling in the glow of a streetlight are enchanting, but when the sun comes up and those magical flakes barely cover the grass, magic is lost. There is over 8 ft. of snow in NY, but you wouldn't know it if you looked out my window.

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  10. Is this Megan-of-Raleigh? By the style, I think it must be. It has been a good long time since you came by for a visit.

    I trust this year's teacher is as delightful as the last! And that the elegant, lithe muse that belongs to youth is treating you right. But I'm afraid that I wouldn't mind seeing a bit of grass.

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  11. Yes, although it seems I am more often Megan-of-the-Pool, and forever smelling of chlorine. And it has been a long time since I've wandered to the Palace. I confess it was because I was hoping for a spark to light some creative fire and melt an icy writer's block. It worked, the essay is done.

    I suppose if you're buried in snow some grass would be nice, but ours is rather scraggly and woebegone.

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  12. And what was your essay, I wonder? Glad to be of service--and glad to hear from you again. Is it 8th grade, this year?

    It has been a week of teen girls around here. A pack of them came over to make "Romeo and Juliet" puppets and put on the play, all as part of a school project. My daughter's Mercutio is an dandy little hand puppet, with a darning needle for a sword.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.